By Joseph Staszewski
Justin Bertea sat on the Molloy bench for 80 minutes praying and thinking about how cool it would be to score the winning goal and send the Stanners back to the city title game. Then he got to find out.
“Ever since the first minute I believed I could do that, “Bertea said.
A wild scramble took place inside the box with the seconds ticking away in the first overtime. Bertea never took his eyes off the ball as bodies fell to the turf and on top of each other. It rolled back to his foot and the senior buried a shot into the left side of the net with 3.5 seconds left to give defending city champion Molloy a thrilling 2-1 win against Christ the King in the CHSAA Class boy’s soccer semifinals Thursday night at Belson Stadium. Molloy faces rival St. Francis Prep 7:30 p.m. Sunday in the final back at St. John’s University.
“That was honestly the best moment in my senior year,” said Bertea, who is in his first year at Molloy.
Bertea, who moved to the United States from the country of Georgia, was mobbed by his teammates with both hands up high after the score. He was an unlikely hero to everyone but Molloy Coach Andy Kostel.
Bertea is a bench player and did not play a minute of regulation. Knowing that he had worked on finishing around the net, Kostel decided to get him and his fresh legs in the contest.
“I thought that was ideal situation for him to go in,” the coach said.
The goal finished off a comeback that started with Christ the King’s Chris Cabrera picking up a red card after two yellows in the 67th minute and the Royals up 1-0. It left a tiring CK team down a man for the rest of the game. Molloy immediately capitalized. A minute later Lucas DoNascimento kicked in a rebound of a Denes Kostel cross to tie the score at 1-1.
“Coach tells us to be ready — if you have a chance to score it,” DoNascimento said. “I was fortunate to.”
Molloy (14-1-2) had not played its best soccer for most of the game and watched Christ the King’s Caesar Oviedo penetrate its third of the field for much of the first half and the early portion of the second. A handball in the 53rd minute gave the Royals a 19-yard free kick that J.C. Obregon tucked past a wall of defenders and into the lower left corner of the goal to make it 1-0.
Christ the King (7-7-3), playing in its second semifinal in the last three years, fought valiantly after Molloy evened things up. It nearly won the contest twice in the final 10 minutes. Stanners keeper John Young dove twice to save Oviedo shots. The Royals could not maintain that energy playing down a man and with Obregon cramping up.
“After the red card physically we went down, especially in overtime, but I’m very proud of them” CK coach Ovid Cusu said. “They gave their best.”